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Controlling Your Anger

Updated: Apr 25, 2022

We all know what anger is, and we've all felt it: whether as a fleeting annoyance or as full-fledged rage. Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems—problems at school, with your friends and family, and in the overall quality of your life. And it can make you feel as though you're at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion.


Anger is an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. Like other emotions, it is accompanied by changes in your physical body; when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, your breathing changes, and you get a surge of energy hormones like adrenaline, and noradrenaline.


Anger can be caused by both external and internal events. You could be angry at a specific person (such as a friend or family member) or event (a traffic jam, extra homework), or your anger could be caused by worrying about your personal problems. Memories of traumatic events, or things that made you angry in the past can also trigger angry feelings.


EXPRESSING ANGER

When we feel angry, our natural response is to express this with aggression. Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; it causes powerful, often aggressive, feelings and behaviours, which allow us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger, therefore, is necessary to our survival.


On the other hand, we can't physically lash out at every person or object that irritates or annoys us; laws, social norms, and common sense place limits on how far our anger can take us.


Sometimes we try to squash down our anger and not express it. But unexpressed anger can create other problems. It can lead to acting in a passive-aggressive way, which means we get back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on. Or our personality changes to become pessimistic and hostile. People who are constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making disparaging comments haven't learned how to constructively express their anger. Not surprisingly, they aren't likely to have many successful relationships.


DEALING WITH ANGER IN OTHER WAYS

People use a variety of both conscious and unconscious processes to deal with their angry feelings. The three main approaches are expressing, suppressing, and calming.

Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive manner is the healthiest and most effective way to express anger. To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others. Being assertive doesn't mean being aggressive, pushy or demanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others. You will need to identify your needs first, and them explain them calmly and clearly to others.


Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. You can do this by holding in your anger, take your attention away from the thing which is causing you upset, and focus on something positive instead. The aim is to inhibit or suppress your anger and convert it into more constructive behaviour. The danger in this type of response is that if it isn't allowed outward expression, your anger can turn inward—on yourself. Anger turned inward may cause health problems or depression.


Finally, you can calm down inside. This means not just controlling your outward behaviour, but also controlling your internal responses, taking steps to lower your heart rate, slow your breathing, and let the feelings subside.


Here are some good techniques to use to control and reduce your angry feelings:


Relaxation

Simple relaxation such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery, can help calm down angry feelings. Some simple steps you can try:

· Breathe deeply, from your tummy; breath out for longer than you breath in. It can help to count 3 to breathe in, and count 5 as you breathe out.

· Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as "relax," "stay calm." Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.

· Use imagery; visualise a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination.

· Do some gentle, yoga-like stretches to relax your muscles and help you feel calmer.


Cognitive Restructuring

Or in other words, change the way you think. When we get angry, our thinking can become exaggerated, colourful and highly dramatic, and we tend to express ourselves in absolutes. Try replacing these thoughts with more temperate ones. For example, instead of saying to yourself, "This is horrendous, it's dreadful, everything's ruined," say instead, "it's frustrating, and it's understandable that I'm upset about it, but it's not the end of the world". Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to solve anything, and it won't make you feel better. In fact, it may actually make you feel worse.


Be careful of absolute words like "never" or "always" when talking about yourself or someone else, for example "this machine never works," or "you always get things wrong". Not only are statements like this inaccurate; they also serve to make you feel that your anger is justified. This sort of thinking prevents you from seeing there is a way to solve the problem. Saying it about someone else can also upset and humiliate people who might otherwise be willing to help you find a solution.


Also try to avoid saying “It’s not fair!” or “Why does this always happen to me?” as this will only make you feel more angry and frustrated. Instead, you can describe how you are feeling, for example, “I am upset that this has happened” or “I feel I have been treated unfairly”.


Use logic

Even when it's justified, anger can quickly become irrational. So use cold hard logic on yourself. Remind yourself that the world is "not out to get you," you're just experiencing some of the rough spots of daily life. Do this each time you feel anger getting the best of you, and it'll help you get a more balanced perspective.